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Rumors are swirling today that Russian winger Alexander Radulov might be a target signing for the Colorado Avalanche this summer. Russian newspaper championat.net is reporting that Radulov’s agent confirmed Avalanche Head Coach Patrick Roy contacted Radulov recently and expressed interest in bringing him back to North America to play for Colorado.
The interest from Roy is understandable as both Roy and Radulov experienced their greatest success together in the 2005-06 season when Roy was the coach of Radulov’s junior team, the Quebec Remparts, and they went on to win the Memorial Cup that season. Radulov put up an absurd 152 points in 62 games played that season, including 55 points in 23 games en route to being the CHL’s highest scoring player, MVP, and Memorial Cup MVP.
Radulov would then turn pro the next season with the Nashville Predators, who selected him 15th overall in the 2004 NHL Draft. Radulov’s NHL career is remembered not for his explosive offensive abilities on some very good Predators teams but for his maturity issues. After scoring 95 points in 145 games played over this first two seasons, Radulov’s troubles began when he shockingly walked out on the final year of his three-year entry-level contract to sign with Salavat Yulaev UFA of the KHL, Russia’s top league.
Radulov spent the next 4 seasons dominating the KHL with his prodigious offensive talent before making a surprise return to the Predators at the end of the 2011-12 season, where he joined the team for a playoff run. Radulov’s time away from North America did not damped his scoring abilities as he registered 7 points in 9 games at the end of the regular season and another 6 points in 8 playoff games.
Problems again rose for Radulov when he was spotted at a bar drinking with teammates well beyond the team’s curfew the night before a playoff game and was subsequently suspended. The Predators were eliminated from the playoffs and Radulov entered free agency but his issues and the threat of him leaving for Russia made it difficult to generate interest.
Radulov subsequently chose to return to Russia, signing with CSKA Moskva, where he has played for the last 3 seasons, scoring 173 points in 128 games played.
Several factors make this rumor of interest between the Avalanche and Radulov interesting. Most notably is that Radulov still has one more year on his contract with CKSA, where he is among the top 5 players in annual salary. Also of note is that while the KHL lavishes players with gaudy contracts, they also have issues consistently paying their players.
Despite his ties to Roy, Radulov coming to Colorado would require a significantly reduced annual salary as the team is already pressed closely to the salary cap and big-money raises are expected over the next 12 months for Erik Johnson, Tyson Barrie, and Nathan MacKinnon, among others. Roy would also have to have faith that Radulov’s maturity issues, which sprouted again when he attacked both a ref and a coach during the last 3 seasons, are behind him and he’s focused on winning and not himself.
Nonetheless, an electric offensive talent coming to the forward-heavy Avalanche is certainly an intriguing possibility and juicy piece of gossip but until several of the obstacles have been cleared, this is nothing more than off-season rumor mill fodder…for now.